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An Ode to Beans...

La Petite Maison Verte: An Ode to Beans...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Ode to Beans...

Here is an Ode to Beans that I wrote:

Beans, beans, good for the heart!  The more you eat them, the more.....oh wait, I didn't write that did I?

OK, OK, starting over:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit!  The more you eat them, the more you....uh, hmm...didn't write that one either, you say?

Alright, I give up on Odes.  I'm not much of a poet anyway.

But in all seriousness, I think beans are one of the most perfect foods!  So versatile, so healthy, and most importantly so TASTY!

Packed with dietary fiber and protein, and low in calories and fat, beans are a superfood by any definition.  Black beans are especially high in fiber which makes them a perfect source of carbohydrates, particularly for those who are prone to blood sugar swings, such as diabetics or people with insulin-resistance, as the fiber slows down the digestion thereby blunting the increase in blood sugar and insulin that occurs naturally following a meal.  Another benefit of dietary fiber is that it helps you feel full longer which is helpful if you're trying to lose weight or even maintain your current weight.

There are a whole TON of other benefits to eating beans from their phytochemicals to antioxidants, but I won't get into the nitty-gritty science behind it since the specific advantages to eating those compounds are only partially understood:  still, the take home message is the same:  Eat your beans!

Until recently, I had only ever bought and eaten canned beans.  I knew that dried beans were less expensive than those in the can, but I also "knew" that those dried beans were a pain in the rear end to cook:  you had to plan ahead the day before to soak them, then cook them for hours, then figure out what to do with 6 cups of cooked beans from a 1 pound bag.  Ugh.

Well, I decided to give it a try anyway.  You see, over the last several months as I have been doing a lot of reading on nutrition, health, wellness, diet, etc. I have come to adopt several Dietary Commandments, if you will that make up my OWN Philosophy on Eating (lots more on that in another post coming soon).  Without going into all the details, one such Commandment is to increase our consumption of non-meat-based protein (to coincide with a decrease in meat-consumption).  And as I've already mentioned, beans are a phenomenal source of protein so they have become a staple in our weekly menu.

So, I was going through 2-3 cans of beans every week and wanting an excuse to add even more beans into our everyday meals and decided now was the time to learn to cook my own dried beans.  And BONUS:  We will be saving a lot of money too, since a bag of dried beans runs about $1.19 at our commissary and contains 6 cups worth of beans, once cooked.  Compare that to $0.89 per can which contains about 1.5 cups of cooked beans.  If my Brian's algebra is correct, that means I'm spending only one third the amount of money I would be if I was buying canned beans!  Plus, I can control how much salt is added to the cooked beans, which I always like to minimize when possible.

Now that I had made up my mind to cook dried beans, I had to figure out how to do it.  I wanted to avoid the hassle of soaking the beans overnight and I certainly wasn't going to buy a pressure cooker to cut down on the cooking time.  The lightbulb went on and I turned to my favorite kitchen how-to resource:  The Kitchn, and sure enough found this handy guide.

I followed the instructions for cooking 1 pound of beans in my dutch oven and I chose black beans to test it out with.  Well, it worked like a charm and after about 90 minutes, almost like magic, I had 6 cups of perfectly cooked black beans!  I have to say, I was so very proud of myself!

The first recipe I decided to make using my homemade black beans was this Quick Stewed Black Beans and let me tell you, it was deeelish!  I loved the smokey flavor and subtle heat from the chipotle pepper and the creamy texture from adding a bit of chicken stock during cooking.  Plus, I was able to use up my last remaining can of beans I had in my pantry (a can of refried beans) and a chipotle pepper in adobo from a can I had opened a few weeks ago (most recipes I make only call for 1 pepper and each can has at least 3 or 4, so I always have a few left that I save - either refrigerated or frozen in the adobo sauce in a ziploc freezer bag).  Next time, I'll have to try making my own refried beans to use in place of the canned...but that's an adventure for another blog post :-)

Quick Stewed Black Beans
serves 6
adapted from The Galley Gourmet

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1 1/2 cups homemade cooked black beans (or one 15 oz can, drained and rinsed)
1 (15 oz) can refried beans or black refried beans
1 small chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (this is spicy, so use more or less depending on your taste)
1 teaspoon adobo sauce (again, use more or less depending on your taste)
1/4 - 1/2 cup chicken stock
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and red bell pepper and saute 5-7 minutes, until softened.  Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add the black beans, refried beans, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and 1/4 cup chicken stock; stir to combine.  Cover pot with the lid and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, lowering heat to medium-low if necessary to prevent burning.  At this point, check the consistency and add up to 1/4 cup additional chicken stock to reach desired thinness.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Serve warm.

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